March 24-25, 2007
Disney Character Premiere Outlet, St. Augustine
On this weekend we ventured back out from JAX back down to Orlando for an Afternoon/ Evening at EPCOT and a full day at MGM and again this would be my twin’s first trip to either park. This would be my wife’s first visit to MGM since the park simply did not exist when she last visited WDW. Yes it was that long ago. Before we get into the nitty gritty details of the trip let me tell you a bit about the Disney Character Premiere Outlet Store in St. Augustine which we did venture into before the trip. It’s a great store where you can save a ton of money if you are driving down through Florida. There is also a location in Orlando but this report deals with the St. Augustine store. At this location they have a variety of souvenirs from the parks discounted fifty percent or more from the theme park prices. The store is one giant room and mainly consists of clothing although you will find a bit of everything such as watches, plush, candy, pins, globes, hats, cases, etc. As with most outlets you have to be careful about what you buy in St. Augustine because some of the items are priced at normal “in-park” prices. Here are some examples of some of the deals I saw on this trip:
$65.00 Snow globe of Cinderella Castle with Characters marked down to $48.75
$18.00 Expedition Everest Shirt marked down to $2.99 with a huge yeti print on front.
$8.00 Magic Kingdom Shot Glass marked down to $4.00
$18.00 50th Anniversary Shirt marked down to $9.00
$20.00 50th Logo Hat marked down to $9.95
$24.00 Big Bad Wolf hat (Similar to Goofy Hat but meaner) marked down to $3.99
$50th Anniversary Pins, all types marked down to $3.99.
$24.00 set Chip&Dale Bean Dolls w/ Authentic Theme Park tags marked down to $12.99
Some of the items I saw that were not marked down were Theme Park Music CD’s and pins on one side of the pin display.
Other items I saw were Christmas toys, Halloween Merchandise, more 50th merchandise, Pirates Items including Pirate hats at $3.99 and a 50th Anniversary Varsity Styled Leather Jackets marked down to $295.95 (Yep that’s the mark down price.)
St. Augustine is one of the best places to get your authentic Disney theme park souvenirs. In fact the Chip and Dale dolls we bought at $12.99 were for sale in MGM on the day we went at $24.00.
We arrived at EPCOT ready to go with the theme park survival kit around 2pm armed with our FL Seasonal Passes. The purpose of this trip would be to simply take in the sights of Future World and not venture into World Showcase at all. I can take an entire day to enjoy the World Showcase later on when the Flower and Garden festival or the Food and Wine festival is in full gear. The turnstiles were not working so we were waved into the park after a glance at the passes by the turnstile operator and the first attraction I took the clan on would be Spaceship Earth. I believe that Spaceship Earth sets the tone for future world very well and is a classic EPCOT attraction. As always around this time the wait was minimal and the ride was just as I had remembered it from my last trip in 2003 with the exception of the missing AT&T sponsor logos. I believe the ride could benefit from some cleaning and a bit of updating and I look forward to the new Siemens area at the exit since that entire area was boarded up on this trip. Next we took the kids into Innoventions. This area is a four year olds paradise. We spent more time in here than I had originally anticipated since the kids went ape over touch screen games, Segways, Musical robots, and releasing Lady Bugs. I thought it was funny that the Disney Cast Member who invited and instructed the twins in releasing the Lady Bugs to eat “Bad Bugs” presented them with small certificates. Upon close inspection of the certificate I found that Disney considers releasing of Lady Bugs to be a dream fulfilled. I would have preferred some cool fast passes or a hat but hey at least I took some great pictures.
After a couple of hours I cajoled the twins into venturing more into Future World and we took in what most Mice chatters have been calling Nemo Lite. We enjoyed the show and I thought it was much, much better than the old show as I remember it. The twins enjoyed it well enough and we had a great time in the main area looking at the living counterparts of the Nemo movie my favorite was the live Jellyfish. When Crush opened up we sat down with the kids on the floor of the theater which was allowed since there were not many people in the theater. The Crush show was very superior to MLF at Magic Kingdom. In my opinion I believe the reason this show will continue to be more successful is because there is no doubt as you enter the theater that this is a show geared for kids. The twins liked it well enough and it’s a godsend that they didn’t pick up on the lets say dude after every sentence after effect. We spent a bit more time in Nemo’s area and then we went to The Land Pavilion.
At The Land we were tired of walking and standing so we opted to see what I call the “Guilt Trip” otherwise known as the Lion King Conservation Film. My wife fell asleep during it but the kids seemed to enjoy the animated antics of Timon and Pumba. It has been awhile since they have seen Lion King and they did not remember the characters but to four year olds toons are toons. After the movie we went on the Living Land boat ride which my wife enjoyed and then we waited in line for Soarin’. I have been to DCA so I have seen Soarin’ Over California before. The queue in EPCOT was not as enjoyable as to what I remember of the California attraction. They do have flat screen T.V’s which provide trivia tips about The Land but it’s still pretty boring in the queue. Only one theater seemed to be open and one side of the queue was completely walled off. This is due to the one theater being closed or being used only for fast passes. We waited about an hour before the ride but the entire family enjoyed the attraction.
The presentation from the beginning (The moment you enter the Queue) to the end of the film may be muddled a bit but the attraction still stands as one of the best Disney has done in a long time. No Pixar characters, No Jokes, just Magic. My kids are still talking about the wonder of flying and neither was scared by the attraction. After Soarin’ we left The Land and then staked out a spot for Illuminations about an hour before show time. This time we chose a spot away from any eatery and I went and bought a couple $8.75 margaritas at the Mexico Cantina. The Margaritas were good but I spied even better margaritas being served at a small stand near the border of Mexico and Norway where the Margaritas were overflowing and multicolored. If you’re itching for a Margarita I would choose this small stand over the Cantina. So our spot for Illuminations was simply in Mexico near the Aztec Pyramid close to the Souvenir stand that sold rings where your name is carved into the ring with a hacksaw. The gold rings were $99.00 with $1.00 added for each letter in your name. They also sold cheaper rings at lower prices but we were satisfied with the Soarin’ Shotglass and Coffee Mug. (The Cast Member who sold the shot glass advised me that the Shotglass was suppose to be a tooth pick holder, after all it would be very un-Disney to sell shot glasses at the park. Yeah and it’s very Disney to sell Margarita’s.)
About ten minutes before the Illuminations show started the crowd started to press in and we enjoyed the fire effects. My wife was overwhelmed by the large explosions and the fire effects and began to get very claustrophobic so she did not enjoy the show as much as the twins or myself. By that time it would have been impossible to move away from the spot we picked out so she endured until the show ended. Next time we will have to pick a better spot away from the crowds if possible so she can enjoy the show. After Illuminations we went to Downtown Disney to eat at Planet Hollywood. I have to say that I have eaten at different Planet Hollywood’s over the years including one in Rome and this was the worst one. The rice they sold us was undercooked and hard, the food was passable and comparable to Applebee’s but priced about $6.00 to $7.00 more. I expected a markup but that was pretty ridiculous for what we received. My wife had a brown cob salad; I enjoyed some penne pasta that again was passable. We will never eat there again.
The next day we went into MGM about an hour after they opened. I enjoy the atmosphere of this park because of my childhood in California. Due to the kids and their age our first stop was the Animation Building. My wife loved the Mushu pre-show and it was cute that my kids tried to speak to Mushu after the show. We went into the main building and admired the Meet the Robinsons/ Cars Displays. We then met the Incredibles and my wife compliment Mrs. Incredible on her “sculpted” shape. After pictures I thought it was cool that the Incredibles continued to play with everyone and didn’t stay in their area. We moved on to the touch screen games and played with them a bit until the characters from Meet the Robinsons came out to provide another photo op. Yes you can get photos with both the Robinsons and Incredibles pretty much at the same time if you arrive at the right time. They are both located in different areas of the show building. The Incredibles are in the upper area and the Robinsons are in the lower area.
After this we attended the Playhouse Disney show which the twins enjoyed due to the participation/ interactive elements of the show. They were only familiar with Bear and Pooh characters from Playhouse Disney but they still enjoyed the rest of the characters. After Playhouse Disney we went into The Little Mermaid stage show which was well done but there was no warning about the water. A couple of guys in the audience starting shouting “Shut it off!” which made the show a bit off beat. The twins did not enjoy this show as much as Playhouse Disney. It could have been the water or it could be that they labeled it as a girls show. After the show we lazily made our way around the park catching a showing of the High School High Pep Rally which was very well done. The Pep Rally was energetic despite how hot it was. I saw sweat pouring off the basketball players but the performers were very professional and they put on a really great show.
We then watched the Parade of the Stars and like many other people we actually followed the Parade Route behind Mickey’s car and let the twins star in their own parade. After the parade we made our way to Mickey Avenue to grab all the photo opportunities available which included the Little Einstein’s, JoJo, Sorcerer Mickey, Woody, Jessie, Green Army Men, and Power Rangers. My wife had a great time playing with the Green Army Men. She would follow them around. This is very strange behavior for her but she was enjoying herself and so were the boys as the Army Men went around throwing dud grenades, hiding in the nearby bushes, stealing trash containers from the janitors, or trying to sweep up children. It was really fun.
We ate lunch at the Backstage Express fast food joint:
Despite it being fast food it is very well themed here are some pics:
Lots of detail in this fast food resteraunt including a small ad for Six Flags Magic Mountain since we are suppose to be close by in Hollywood.
Inside the little office you can see the Stitch Script.
I had a nice turkey sandwich, the wife had a cheeseburger, the twins shared a hot dog. The total was about $22.00 without drinks which were taken from the survival kit. The food was actually really good and this time (see last trip report 3-17-07) no topping bar in sight, only condiments. Good food and interesting atmosphere. The office in the back was interesting. It had an Imagineering Script for Stitch’s Escape which I thought was cool since it seemed the office had been updated recently. We had wanted to eat at the 50’s Prime Time Café’ but after hearing the only available seating was 9pm we decided to eat outside of the WDW Resort. After lunch we had fun going on Star Tours and enjoying a bit of window shopping at the Souvenir shops until heading to wait in line for Fantasmic which was being shown at 8:30.
We arrived at the stage at 8:20 which was packed. I have seen the California version of the show which I have to say is superior to the WDW version in many ways. First this version is much scarier than the Disneyland version to younger audiences like my twins. In the Disneyland version you have the hook sequence and the Boa from the Jungle Book. In the WDW version you have the Pocahontas scene which is a lot more violent in nature than Peter Pan. In this version you have settlers killing Indians and the Indians attempting to fight back. Also the snake in this version is Jafar in snake-form threatening Mickey. My four year olds were convinced Mickey was going to be eaten by that snake. It was very unsettling to them and I held them close and whispered that Mickey was going to win. Once I stated that they calmed a bit but if you have children four or younger I can’t really recommend this show. They could fix it by getting rid of Pocahontas and replacing that scene with comparable one feature actors playing Jack Sparrow and other pirates from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
A sequence featuring “parlay” would be amusing and Pirates can get away with more pillaging than American settlers slaughtering natives. I’m sure more can be done with minimal cost to Disney’s bottom line. Simply having the Genie from Aladdin coming to save the day in the Jafar sequence would look great and be fun and take a bit of terror out of the show for the little ones. That is the only complaint I have about MGM. After the show we starting walking out of the theater and were provided strollers by Cast Members to take the twins to the main entrance. It was nice to have the Stroller but I suspect it was a dual tactic by Disney wishing to control the crowd allowing it to move faster. We then left the park and had a much better Dinner at nearby Chevy’s just outside the entrance to Downtown Disney. If you haven’t eaten at Chevy’s and enjoy Mexican food then Chevy’s is enjoyable. They make homemade tortillas that taste great and the food while generic is tasteful. I recommend the tamales which they also make fresh. Since it was Sunday they had hired a balloon guy to go around and make Balloon animals for the kids. So if you are stuck outside Disney (or inside without DDP or a reservation) give Chevy’s a try you could do a lot worse. (Planet Hollywood for instance).
That is all for this update. I hope you enjoy it. I am still in tourist mode since I am new to FL.